It didn’t look promising for a while there. Yovani Gallardo – in spite of getting through 7 innings – still had that One Big Inning, where he gave up 4 in the fifth (including a 3-run home run to help gag away the lead). The Mariners were able to hit a couple solo homers in the third to take a temporary 2-1 lead, and eventually got to within 5-4 after the sixth, but the Twins’ bullpen was able to hold that narrow margin into the bottom of the ninth.
The Twins brought out their closer, Brandon Kintzler, who had as good lookin’ a sinker as I’ve seen in a while. He was keeping the ball down, plus he had late downward movement on top of that to really get guys to roll over on it. Seager grounded out to second base to lead off the ninth, and my heart sunk. Motter grounded out to short stop and I said to myself, “This is over! The Mariners are meat right now!” I mean, we’ve seen this team and how it performs when sinkerballers are able to pound the bottom of the strikezone; it’s not pretty.
Then, Ben Gamel came up and chopped a single up the middle. It looked like it was slow enough to be playable, but fortunately the Twins weren’t lined up in a way to make a play defensively. That brought Mike Zunino to the plate, and a little tickle went off in my brain.
He had one of those solo homers back in the third (the other belonged to Chooch Ruiz, who was our DH as Nelson Cruz rests his bum calf). He’s also been on a tear the last 8 games, since the start of that first Colorado series: going 14 for 30 with 4 doubles and now 3 homers with his game-winning bomb to center last night. He took a pitch on the outer half and bashed it the other way; it was a sight to behold and literally had me jumping out of my chair!
I mean, check it, in his last 8 games vs. the other 29 games he’s played in this year, Zunino has 14 of his 27 total hits, 4 of his 9 total doubles, 3 of his 4 total homers (all 4 homers have come since his call-up from Tacoma, about a week before that Colorado series), and 14 of his 17 total RBI. His batting average has jumped 81 points and his slugging has gone up 168 points. He’s been a completely different player, is what I’m getting at, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Obviously, we can’t just clap our hands and pronounce him cured, but a hot streak is better than nothing (which is what we were getting from him before he was sent down). You can’t help but feel great for him. He always puts in so much work on his game, he’s got all the potential in the world, and his career has been so maligned that he really deserves to have the success he’s having.
Also, not for nothing, but the Mariners deserved this win. I know things have been pretty cushy lately – this puts them at 9 wins in their last 10 games, to bring them back to .500 at 30-30 – but this season has been an emotional drain for most of the first two months. For most of these wins in this current hot streak, the Mariners have been about as complete as you can be: good pitching, great hitting, solid defense, just beating teams into submission in every facet of the game. Well, last night, the pitching wasn’t so hot, and the hitting wasn’t much to speak about (3 hits and 4 runs heading into the ninth inning), but with two outs and the game seemingly in the bag for the Twins, the Mariners were able to pull a little magic out of their asses. It’s nice to see.
Bergman gets the start tonight to try to steal another sweep, then Toronto and all the Blue Jays fans come to town for the weekend.